NHL Power Rankings: What matters — and doesn’t matter — from all 32 starts

After a lengthy hiatus, The Power Rankings Boys are back in town.

The last time we power ranked each team, “Top Gun: Maverick” was dominating the box office and we naturally used that as yet another ranking gimmick. So… it’s been a while.

We know you missed us because we missed you too, but for the next 30 or whatever weeks we’re not going anywhere. It’s you and us, together, ranking every team in the NHL every Friday.

Sometimes we’ll shoehorn an odd gimmick to keep the rankings fresh (perhaps one involving an album that released today…), but for Episode One of Power Rankings Season Three, we’re going to keep it simple.

After only three-to-five games of hockey, it’s difficult to know what matters and what doesn’t for each team. We’re here to help with one thing in each direction for each squad.

Here we go.

Record: 3-1-0
Dom rank: 1
Sean rank: 1

What Matters: Andrei Svechnikov turning into a superstar.

Six goals in four games to lead the league after a hat trick against the Oilers. A dominant 63 percent expected goals rate. And a plus-three goal differential. It’s enough to lead the league in average Game Score so far at 2.85. Yeah, Svechnikov has been unreal.

We’ve been waiting for Svechnikov’s big breakout for a few seasons and we’ve questioned whether Carolina has enough oomph-per-60 to compete with the league’s other high-end teams. In four games, it feels like both questions have been answered. This is Svech’s year.

What Doesn’t Matter: Notorious Canes haters, us, ranking them first.

This is just a placeholder until Colorado, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Florida figure their stuff out. (For the reply guys, this is a joke — we like the Hurricanes).

Record: 3-0-1
Dom rank: 2
Sean rank: 2

What Matters: Everything is working.

Sidney Crosby is still great. Evgeni Malkin looks better. Pittsburgh is second in the league in expected goals at five-on-five (61.93) and has outscored opponents 13-2. Part of that is because of Tristan Jarry (.952 save percentage in three starts), and part of it is because of a skater group that has already seen 12 players score at least once.

What Doesn’t Matter: Kris Letang isn’t one of those 12 players.

His expected goals share is a tidy 65.12 percent. The production will come. Maybe he’s happy to cede some of his responsibilities to Jeff Petry, who had a monster game against Los Angeles on Thursday night. Letang has carried too much of the load on Pittsburgh’s right side for too long. Petry can help.

3. Colorado Avalanche

Record: 2-1-1
Dom rank: 3
Sean rank: 4

What Matters: Alex Newhook’s slow start.

The Avalanche have big shoes to fill at second-line center and Newhook was going to be the first guy to get a crack at it. Through four games he has no points and has one of the worst expected goals rates on the team. The team said he would get a very long audition in the role, but early returns suggest he isn’t quite ready. Until he is (or they find someone else to fill the role), this team’s forward group is looking a lot thinner than last year.

What Doesn’t Matter: October, November, December, January, February, March.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are going to make the playoffs. They have a 98 percent chance at it. The only thing that matters is what happens starting in April, especially with the likelihood of the Avalanche having a high seed once they get there. The next six months are just one long practice for these guys.

Record: 3-1-1
Dom rank: 4
Sean rank: 3

What Matters: Balance, balance, balance.

The Rangers are racking up points despite Igor Shesterkin’s crummy stats (.901 save percentage, 29th in the league in goals saved above expected). We know how good their power play is, but five-on-five production was an issue last season until bringing in some (since departed) trade deadline reinforcements. So far this year, they’re top-10 in expected and actual goals percentage. That’ll play.

What Doesn’t Matter: Igor Shesterkin’s crummy stats.

He’s too good to worry about.

Record: 4-1-0
Dom rank: 5
Sean rank: 5

What Matters: David Krejci’s return.

The Bruins’ 4-1-0 start is only surprising if you weren’t paying attention. The Athletic’s official position as mandated by The Cult of Dom’s Model was that the Bruins would still be good. Krejci returning to the fold was a big part of that. Through five games the veteran center has five points while performing well at five-on-five. It’s like he never left.

What Doesn’t Matter: Injuries.

Some people really thought the Bruins would go 2-18-0 to start the season without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. That’s not how this sport works, baby.

The 4-1-0 start is a bit surprising given the losses, but it helps getting big-time contributions from someone like AJ Greer who has started the season with three goals and five points in five games. That won’t last, but it’s a nice boost for now for a team that needed its depth players to step up.

Record: 3-1-0
Dom rank: 6
Sean rank: 6

What Matters: Nazem Kadri, as advertised.

Adding Kadri completed a (not entirely planned) offseason overhaul for Calgary, and he’s held up his end of the bargain. With him on the ice at five-on-five, the Flames have outscored opponents 3-2; out-attempted them 56-35; out-chanced them 34-18 and controlled nearly 67 percent of the expected goals

What Doesn’t Matter: That loss to Buffalo.

The Sabres are fine, and the Flames were due a bit of a dud after three wins over Western Conference contenders (Colorado, Edmonton, Vegas) to start the season. Not a big deal.

7. Florida Panthers

Record: 3-1-0
Dom rank: 8
Sean rank: 7

What Matters: Matthew Tkachuk starting strong.

There were questions about how Tkachuk would look away from Calgary’s system and high-powered top line. So far so good with six points in four games and a 56 percent expected goals rate. The biggest thing though is how many individual chances he’s generating. His 3.3 expected goals ranks third in the league.

What Doesn’t Matter: Defensive depth, apparently.

Florida’s defense looked like the team’s fatal flaw from the get-go. Now with Aaron Ekblad out for a while, it’s going to be put to a major test. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s a bold call for a team with contending aspirations to trot out Gustav Forsling and five dudes. Defensive depth should matter, but the Panthers clearly don’t think so.

Record: 4-1-0
Dom rank: 7
Sean rank: 10

What Matters: So far, so good in net

Logan Thompson is top-10 in save percentage (.938) and GSAx (3.3). No team had more riding on a less proven goaltender. Backup Adin Hill had a nice night against Winnipeg on Friday, as well. If this is going to work for Vegas, they’re going to need consistently decent play from their goalies.

What Doesn’t Matter: The salary cap.

Look inside your heart: Would you really be surprised if February rolled around and they weren’t making a run at Patrick Kane?

Record: 2-0-0
Dom rank: 10
Sean rank: 9

What Matters: The upcoming schedule.

We want to talk about how good the Blues are, we promise… but it’s hard to do that after only two games. Two games against the Oilers over the next week and one against Nashville should do the trick.

What Doesn’t Matter: Everything because they’ve only played two games.

It is funny that even after two games the Blues numbers at five-on-five are exactly as expected: lots of goals, not as many expected goals. Still, even with this being an example in small sample size madness, there’s a line for too small a sample. Two games qualifies. Call us next week for Blues takes. This week, we’ve got nothing. Blame Gary.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 3-2-0
Dom rank: 9
Sean rank: 11

What Matters: Goaltending, no matter how much they’d rather it didn’t.

Matt Murray — a historically ineffective, injury-prone starting goalie — has been ineffective and injured. Shocking! Now it’s up to Ilya Samsonov and Erik Källgren to drive the bus, and if the Leafs aren’t the five-on-five juggernaut we all believed them to be, there will be some white-knuckle rides.

What Doesn’t Matter: Auston Matthews’ shooting percentage.

It’s 4.2 — more than 12 points below his career average. That’s jumping up at some point very soon. He doesn’t look himself, but he’s also healthy, supremely talented and a month past his 25th birthday. He’ll be back.

Record: 3-0-1
Dom rank: 12
Sean rank: 8

What Matters: Jake Oettinger hasn’t slowed down since his “A Star is Born” playoff moment.

Oettinger was a brick wall during the postseason last year, looking like a future elite netminder for Dallas. He’s picked up right where he left off to start and we like his odds of keeping that up. Through his first three games, he’s already saved 4.8 goals above expected with a .966 save percentage. He’s arrived.

What Doesn’t Matter: Mason Marchment having six points in four games.

The models love him and he was top 10 in points-per-60 last season. We don’t care. We refuse to believe he’ll keep this up and continue looking like one of the league’s absolute best power forwards as the models seem to suggest he is.

Then again… he also did this. So maybe he will score 120 points this year after all.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 1-3-0
Dom rank: 11
Sean rank: 13

What Matters: The names at the top of the roster.

Nikita Kucherov Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point can stay on autopilot for as long as they want. They know what they’re doing.

What Doesn’t Matter: Most of what they do from now until March.

Not all of it — the depth players need to prove themselves over the course of the season — but the underlyings are good enough to assume they’ll round into shape in the near future. All this group has to do is make the postseason.

13. Edmonton Oilers

Record: 2-2-0
Dom rank: 13
Sean rank: 14

What Matters: Connor McDavid wants a Rocket Richard.

McDavid has that gene where if he wants to, he will. He has the talent to win the goal-scoring title if he really wants to and this year he feels like he wants to. Five goals in four games? That’s a decent start.

What Doesn’t Matter: Bad Jack Campbell starting the season.

With Jack Campbell, you know what you’re getting – you just don’t know when. Sometimes he will look like one of the best goalies in the world. Sometimes he will look like the worst. To start, Edmonton is getting the latter. That’s okay. The other version will show up eventually.

Record: 2-2-0
Dom rank: 16
Sean rank: 15

What Matters: A normal October.

Last season, the Isles opened their schedule with a 13-game road trip while they waited for UBS Arena to open. By the end of it, they were out of gas and four games into an 11-game skid. Nothing got better from there on out. So far, the season has been welcomely uneventful.

What Doesn’t Matter: Mathew Barzal’s linemates.

The early returns on linking him with Kyle Palmieri are solid enough, but that didn’t work out particularly well last season. It’s past time to figure something out there.

Record: 1-3-0
Dom rank: 17
Sean rank: 16

What Matters: An improved power play.

The Wild were 18th last year with the man advantage. This year they’re clicking at 41 percent and while that likely won’t last, their top five expected goals rate so far is extremely encouraging. Minnesota is generating 11 expected goals per 60 on the power play this year, up from 6.5 last year.

What Doesn’t Matter: Going 0-3 to start the season.

When the goalies can’t make a save, it’s going to be hard to win games. The Wild couldn’t buy a save in the opening three games and that’s not enough to write the team off. This is still a group that came into the year with very high expectations and once the goaltending normalizes they should find themselves on the right track.

16. Los Angeles Kings

Record: 3-3-0
Dom rank: 15
Sean rank: 18

What Matters: Their goaltending.

It’s too early to overreact to any statistical extremes — we’ve said it several times already and will say it several times more — but Jonathan Quick and Cal Peterson could be a problem. They’re not going to combine for an .870 save percentage all season long, but the Kings need every point they can get in a sneaky-strong Pacific Division, and at least one of those guys is going to have to be better.

What Doesn’t Matter: The first line’s learning curve.

In a little more than 50 minutes together, Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala have controlled about 42 percent of the expected goals. Actual goals are 5-5. Those players are too good to hover around mediocrity for all that much longer.

Record: 2-2-0
Dom rank: 14
Sean rank: 20

What Matters: Their expected goals percentage.

After four games, no team has controlled the scoring chance share as much as the Devils at 71 percent. It’s early, but that’s a very strong signifier that this team is ready to take a big step forward. They’re dominating the puck.

What Doesn’t Matter: Their save percentage.

Yes, their goaltending is atrocious. But it’s not .845 atrocious. Last year, for context, they were at .881 and this goaltending duo, as bad as it is, is not as bad as last year’s group. MacKenzie Blackwood already looks like he’s starting to turn things around. As long as the team keeps dominating at five-on-five, passable goaltending is good enough. They’ll be better than .845 for the year.

Record: 2-0-1
Dom rank: 19
Sean rank: 19

What Matters: No pointless nights.

Is that easy when you’ve only played three games? Sure, but the Wings are 2-0-1, Dylan Larkin is making huge plays and Moritz Seider is showing signs of leveling up. All is well. The point streak won’t last forever, but Detroit should be relevant.

What Doesn’t Matter: Andrew Copp’s start.

It’s horrendous — Detroit is getting outshot 30-9 with their big offseason addition on the ice with a sub-28 expected goals rate — but Copp is too good to be this bad. Will he hit the offensive marks we saw last season? Maybe not. Doesn’t matter.

19. Buffalo Sabres

Record: 3-1-0
Dom rank: 23
Sean rank: 17

What Matters: Rasmus Dahlin is ready to take the next step toward stardom.

Cale Makar, Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy, Miro Heiskanen, Quinn Hughes –– business is booming for the next generation of young defensemen. Is Dahlin finally ready to take the leap into that stratosphere? His start suggests he just might be after scoring a goal in four straight games, an NHL record. He’s been excellent at five-on-five too. He’s the only Sabres defender above 50 percent in expected goals.

What Doesn’t Matter: Their record.

Sorry, not buying it. Buffalo has 65 percent of the goals but just 47 percent of the expected goals. The latter number is a middling team which would be a nice step for the Sabres – and it’s close to where we’ve ranked them – but the former isn’t indicative of much just yet.

Record: 2-2-0
Dom rank: 20
Sean rank: 22

What Matters: Avoiding the slide.

Things looked dodgy for the Sens at the onset, but they’ve normalized with a 53 percent expected goals rate that’s directly in line with their actual goal percentage. Most importantly, they’ve won two straight and avoided the sort of season-starting crater that’d make everyone forget that fun offseason reeeeeal quick.

What Doesn’t Matter: Jake Sanderson’s lack of experience.

Everything is right where it should be for the 20-year-old defenseman. He only has one assist so far, but a 63 percent expected goal rate and a 20-7 edge in on-ice high-danger chances is about the best you could expect. Now all they need is another defenseman or two.

21. Nashville Predators

Record: 2-3-1
Dom rank: 18
Sean rank: 24

What Matters: Power play regression.

Last year, the Predators had the league’s sixth-best power play after years of struggling with the man advantage. That looked like a mirage with their low-scoring chance rate so it should come as little shock that the team’s biggest issue right now is a market correction on the power play. Nashville is 31st with a 30th-ranked expected goals rate. Not good.

What Doesn’t Matter: Early struggles for Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Roman Josi.

Nashville’s best skaters were a big reason the Predators were a playoff team last season. All three have gotten off to slow starts, but that shouldn’t last. Forsberg, Duchene and Josi are all getting out-chanced at five-on-five and not producing, but knowing them, they should turn it around in short order.

Record: 2-3-0
Dom rank: 21
Sean rank: 23

What Matters: The injury list.

Connor Brown, who opened the season on Washington’s first line, is going to miss significant time with a leg injury. Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom are still out, and will be for a while. The Caps have no choice but do their best to max out their shot this season, but none of this is boding well.

What Doesn’t Matter: Baseball-batting a dude in the face, apparently.

23. Winnipeg Jets

Record: 2-2-0
Dom rank: 22
Sean rank: 23

What Matters: They’re getting dominated at five-on-five… again.

Look, it’s just four games – but the problem with this team has long been their five-on-five play. With a new coach, you’d hope to see an uptick to start. Nope. A 44 percent expected goals rate with the team struggling in particular on offense. That they won both games with Nikolaj Ehlers and lost both games without is part of it, sure, but if you were hoping this was a playoff team the start isn’t ideal.

What Doesn’t Matter: Any David Rittich start.

This team, with all its defensive flaws, will live and die by Connor Hellebuyck. Losing 5-2 to Vegas with Rittich starting? Who cares. Hellebuyck is rocking a .922 save percentage right now and has already saved two goals above expected in three games. That’s what counts. If he’s on his MVP vibe, this team has a shot.

Record: 3-1-0
Dom rank: 26
Sean rank: 21

What Matters: Wins aside, they’re getting stomped at five-on-five.

John Tortorella has already helped drag this team to six points. That’s what he does. Still, plenty of signs point to Philly being just as bad as everyone figured they’d be; they’re third-worst in the league in expected goal percentage and 32nd in scoring chance percentage.

What Doesn’t Matter: The fanbase’s wants and needs.

Chuck Fletcher still has a job, correct?

Record: 1-2-2
Dom rank: 24
Sean rank: 25

What Matters: Goaltending, still.

The Kraken have out-chanced opponents to start the year, but again are off to a slow start with just one win in five games. It turns out that the goaltending hasn’t magically fixed itself as Philipp Grubauer has an .851 save percentage while Martin Jones is at .873. Woof. That’s still going to be a problem, huh.

What Doesn’t Matter: A hot start on the power play, and slow start on the penalty kill.

On the power play, the Kraken have the seventh-best goal rate, but the second-worst expected goal rate. On the penalty kill, the Kraken have the third worst goal rate, but the seventh-worst expected goal rate. Isn’t early season wackiness fun?

Record: 2-3-0
Dom rank: 25
Sean rank: 26

What Matters: Johnny Gaudreau’s linemates.

Patrik Laine scored in Game 1 and hurt his elbow within seconds, or so it seemed. Justin Danforth and Gustav Nyquist have taken his place on a line with Gaudreau and Boone Jenner. Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, they are not. Gaudreau has six points in five games anyway; if he keeps up that pace with that support, god bless him.

What Doesn’t Matter: Nick Blankenburg’s size.

He’s an undrafted, 5-foot-9 defenseman who just played in his 10th NHL game, and he was awesome. Good for him.

Record: 3-2-0
Dom rank: 28
Sean rank: 27

What Matters: Arber Xhekaj having the best nickname in hockey.

Most losing seasons – which the Habs will likely have this season – don’t usually have a lot of fun moments. Montreal is bucking that trend early with three wins in five games to start, but the most fun is happening off the ice with newcomer Arber Xhekaj. He’s played just five career NHL games and already has the best nickname in the league.

What Doesn’t Matter: Any of these wins.

The Canadiens are, perhaps inexplicably, 3-2-0 to start the season which is truly incredible given their makeshift defense corps. Take it with a grain of salt though, this team is still a lottery contender and their underlying numbers point to impending losses in their future. It’s been a fun start, but this was still the league’s worst team last year for a reason.

Record: 1-3-1
Dom rank: 27
Sean rank: 29

What Matters: That Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry mesh.

Heading into this season, they’d barely played together. Let’s see what they can do; the Ducks will be a lot more interesting — and Pat Verbeek will feel a lot better — if it works out.

What Doesn’t Matter: John Klingberg’s slow start.

Anaheim’s big offseason addition hasn’t done much in his first four games — two assists, one on the power play, and five-on-five numbers that are basically as bad as the rest of his teammates. Doesn’t matter. He’s a right-shot defensemen with offensive ability on a one-year deal. He’ll retain some level of trade value no matter how bad he is.

Record: 1-2-0
Dom rank: 30
Sean rank: 28

What Matters: Jonathan Toews’s trade value growing.

It’s really early, but Toews looks rejuvenated to start the season and if he keeps it up, he will be one helluva trade chip for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane will command a lot in return, but if Toews proves he can still be a top-six caliber center, he might be able to fetch Chicago a decent return as well (with salary retention, of course).

What Doesn’t Matter: Anything this team does on the ice.

The Blackhawks are openly tanking this season and have only played three games so far. That means 79 more miserable games that we should not have to pretend to care about. If the franchise doesn’t, we shouldn’t either.

Record: 0-3-2
Dom rank: 29
Sean rank: 32

What Matters: They’re going home.

Vancouver wasn’t supposed to be down here, as part of The Tank Brigade, at any point this season — let alone after five games. Bruce Boudreau’s postgame media sessions are getting sadder by the day. Not a lot of positive stuff going on with them. They almost beat Minnesota on Thursday? They didn’t blow a multi-goal lead? At least the road trip is over.

What Doesn’t Matter: J.T. Miller’s putrid start

Don’t get the wrong idea here; it’s not good. He was on the ice for 12 of Vancouver’s first 18 goals against, plus Kirill Kaprizov’s OT winner on Thursday. But when you’re signed for eight more years, what are five measly games, really?

Record: 1-5-0
Dom rank: 31
Sean rank: 31

What Matters: That they might be bad enough to contend for Connor Bedard after all.

Before the season started it really looked like the Sharks would be in tough to truly enter the Bedard sweepstakes considering the competition and their slightly more competitive roster. Guys like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson would make it difficult to be as bad as necessary. After starting the season 0-5-0 though, that theory is looking unlikely, especially with how poor the Sharks look at five-on-five. The blue line in particular looks dire.

What Doesn’t Matter: Their perfect penalty kill.

The Sharks are one of four teams with a perfect penalty kill, an impressive feat considering they’ve played more games than the other three teams. San Jose has killed off 20 straight chances to start the season, and while the Sharks had an elite penalty kill last season, their expected goals-against rate was top 10 last year too. This year they’re below average to start.

Record: 1-3-0
Dom rank: 32
Sean rank: 30

What Matters: That they’re as bad as they’re supposed to be.

There were moments in their season opener against Pittsburgh when the Coyotes looked … frisky. Not good, but frisky. As for that Leafs game? It’s a perfect October game. Stuff happens. But on balance, this team still looks like one primed to lose, and lose relentlessly. They’re already at a minus-9 goal differential and have the worst expected goals rate in the league. All systems go.

What Doesn’t Matter: Who lands Jakob Chychrun

Doesn’t matter to the Coyotes, at least. Just move the guy so everyone can get on with their lives.

(Top photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

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